A dogged performance by world No. 21 pair, Michal Logosz and Adam Cwalina, almost upstaged rising stars, Maneepong Jongjit and Bodin Issara of Thailand this afternoon.
Regrettably, this engrossing Men’s Doubles encounter was cut short by injury to 34-year-old Logosz. The Polish player dived for a drop shot and pulled his left Achilles tendon. Writhing in agony (featured image), he was clearly unable to continue, leaving the Thai twosome victors by retirement. It was a great pity since this Group B cliffhanger – delicately poised 17-15 to Jongjit/Issara in the third game – could have easily gone either way in Wembley Arena.
Though the Poles and then the Thais pulled away to win games one and two respectively, neither was able to establish a substantial lead in the decider, having spectators on edge with every point as momentum swung back and forth.
Having swept aside the world-ranked No. 4 and 6 pairs in the preceding two days in straight games, it was intriguing to see what effect losing the opening game would have on Jongjit/Issara. If anything, the impact was positive, snapping them into life instantly.
Unflustered by the 14-21 setback, the world No. 19 pair set about a quick turnaround in game two, attacking relentlessly – a strategy that bore fruit in their previous matches – to level games one-all, as they took the second 21-13.
Fans will never know what might have been had Logosz not fallen in battle. However, that takes nothing away from the Thai pair; worthy group winners with three impressive outings to reach the quarter-finals. The 21-year-olds further endeared themselves to the public by showing genuine concern for their injured rival, even hugging him on the floor before both teams left the arena to hearty applause.
“My partner was already suffering from an Achilles tendon injury before this match,” explained a disappointed Cwalina, age 27. “When he dived to save the drop shot, the tendon gave in.”
Meanwhile, defending Men’s Singles champion, Lin Dan, made his first appearance and brushed off an enthusiastic Scott Evans of Ireland. The 28-year-old Chinese maestro stroked his way to 21-8 21-14, booking his place in the last 16, where he meets Group O winner (either Taufik Hidayat of Indonesia or Spain’s Pablo Abian). Elsewhere, Russian giant Vladimir Ivanov powered past Jen Hao Hsu of Taipei 21-15 21-13 and Dmytro Zavadsky (Ukraine) dismissed Ajfan Rasheed (the Maldives).
In Women’s Singles, Hong Kong’s world No. 22 Yip Pui Yin triumphed spectacularly over highly-touted world No. 8 Sung Ji Hyun of Korea, 21-18 23-21, to advance to the last 16. Tai Tzu Ying (Taipei, 10) beat Anu Nieminen of Finland and Cheng Shao Chieh (Taipei, 7) defeated Simone Prutsch (Austria).
“I felt like a superstar when my name was called for my first match in the Olympics,” declared debutant, Tai Tzu Ying. “My strokes are usually powerful and since the drift was going against me, it worked to my advantage.”
Cheng Shao Chieh, who reached the World Championships final at this venue last year (losing to Wang Yihan of China), said she attempted to adjust to conditions.
“I enjoyed today’s match but I also tried to have an overall feel of the court, to get my bearing and to have an idea which direction the drift is going. These are crucial things for my next matches.”
In-form Mixed Doubles pair, Sudket Prapakamol/ Saralee Thoungthongkam of Thailand, gave No. 2 seeds, Xu Chen and Ma Jin, plenty to worry about in their first Group D game, even holding a marginal 19-18 lead, but their challenge against the Chinese withered there.
Perhaps the afternoon’s most surprising result was the comprehensive defeat of world No. 9 pair, Lee Yong Dae/Ha Eun Jung by No. 8 Thomas Laybourn/Kamilla Rytter-Juhl. It was expected to be a tight face-off – especially as Lee Yong Dae is the defending Olympic champion in this event (with Lee Hyo Jung) – but the Danes shut out the Koreans, 21-15 21-12.